Export customers placing early orders will be offered involvement in proportion to number of aircraft they purchase

Airbus Military has targeted key potential export customers for the A400M military transport and says work packages will be offered to these countries "in proportion to the number of aircraft they order".

Top of the list are Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden, which, says Airbus Military, "all have a recognised requirement in that they must soon retire their old transport aircraft, and which have the political will, the budget and the industry to participate". Others include Japan, New Zealand, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Countries joining the programme early could not only become regional support centres but also have their special requests engineered into the aircraft from the beginning, which could then become options for later customers, the manufacturer adds.

Airbus Military is tooling up to manufacture three aircraft a month, and says that once the A400M goes into production, the centre of gravity of the programme will move from Toulouse to Madrid, where EADS Casa has historic expertise in military transport aircraft. Final assembly of the A400M will be in Seville.

Following selection of the engine and propeller suppliers, a decision on the six-wheel main landing gear between Liebherr Aerospace and Messier-Dowty, is imminent, the company says.

Airbus Military says all supply contracts are open to any Joint Aviation Authorities-cleared company. "A worldwide competition will be applied for every system," it says, adding that it does not expect US export controls to hinder participation of US companies, "because this aircraft is not an offensive weapon". Nevertheless, the supplier "has to obtain all applicable export authorisations", even if Airbus is trying to smooth the path by attempting to organise US export clearances "for non-controversial nations".

Maximum use will be made of off-the-shelf equipment, Airbus Military says, given the tight development schedule of the A400M first flight of which is scheduled for 2008.

Source: Flight International